When a movie’s tagline is “Did you ever wish for the impossible?” you know you’re in trouble. Screenwriters David Diamond and David Weissman should have cut back on the wishing and directed their time and energy towards putting together a funnier script. The duo takes a hopeful premise and drags it down with a colossal amount of cliché gags and uncomfortably awkward moments.
Beth is 100% committed to her job as an art curator leaving zero time to have a guy in her life, which is evident in the film’s opening scene. While hosting a party at an art exhibit, it’s erroneously announced that Beth is engaged. Making the situation even more humiliating, the person who’s actually engaged is Beth’s ex. But don’t worry Beth, this event has absolutely no bearing upon the rest of the film and is ultimately insignificant.
The real story kicks in when her little sister informs her she’s getting married in Rome. A mix of jealously, work-related pressure and champagne leads to a wedding packed with mishaps. Luckily Beth meets the just as unfortunate Nick (Josh Duhamel), a guy who makes Beth second-guess her all-work-no-boyfriend policy. More champagne eventually lands Beth in the fountain of love committing a serious no-no, taking other people’s coins. Not only is it illegal to be prancing in the fountain, but by taking the coins, she puts their owners under a magical spell making them madly in love with her.
Once Beth returns to New York City, the problems begin, both for Beth and the audience. We’re introduced to four coin tossers, all of which are amusing at first, but quickly become annoyingly intolerable. Will Arnett is Antonio, an Italian painter and the least humorous of the bunch. There are a few cute moments between Danny Devito’s sausage king and Beth, and Dax Shepard earns a few giggles as a super vain model. A number of Lance (Jon Heder) the gothic magician moments are funny, but that character is so discomforting to watch it’s almost impossible to laugh. Heder’s saving grace is his reunion with Napoleon Dynamite co-star Efren Ramirez. Come to think of it, Ramirez may be the funniest of the supporting characters.
This is a romantic comedy, so of course our lead must have exponentially more unappealing best friends. Lead sidekick duties fall to Bobby Moynihan and Kate Micucci neither of which has one remotely funny moment. They’re completely thrown under the bus at Bell’s and Duhamel’s expense. At least their sacrifice is worth it; When in Rome’s sole positive sources are the stars. Both Bell and Duhamel have an uncanny ability to be appealing on screen no matter what ridiculous absurdity they’re engaged in.
On the whole, When in Rome is a subpar attempt at a romantic comedy. Every cheap gag is hackneyed and blush-worthy rather than deserving of a laugh. On the other hand, it does hold your attention from beginning to end. Between the magnetism of Bell and Duhamel and the mesmerizing scenic shot of Rome and New York, When in Rome is a pleasantly tolerable hour and a half. That being said, even a minute more would have been a serious problem.